"What we have here is a bunch of good actors, screenwriters and their director swimming in the shallow end of mediocrity."
The biggest problem with Pride and Glory is that we've seen this movie about eight million times. You want to play in these waters? Fine. But you have to know going in the odds are stacked against you. The audience knows the drill already so you have to really catch us off-guard and invest in character. To the film's credit, it occasionally succeeds.
This is a multi-generational family cop drama and like almost all family cop dramas, it deals with police corruption. And usually, someone in the family or close to it is deep in the muck. In this case corruption surrounds Colin Farrell's Jimmy Egan. Don't worry, I didn't spoil anything for you. This bit of information mercifully comes to you early. His brothers-in-law, Francis and Ray (played by a capable Noah Emmerich and Edward Norton) are also cops. Hell, even their old man carries a badge. There's a lot of guns at that Thanksgiving dinner table.
But the film begins like this: One night four cops are killed in a shootout. It was a drug bust but something is very wrong about the whole thing. It's suspected the dealers were tipped off. Norton's Ray is assigned to the task force set in place to figure out just what happened and to hunt the drug dealer who got away. Four officers down is not taken lightly, or so films like this have told us time and time again. Before he knows it, Ray's hands get dirty and the investigation naturally leads to his brother-in-law (Farrell). It's a morality play, a bit of a police procedural and a whole lot of nothing else.
You take what you know from these types of movies, you consider the film's title and you can see where the rest of the film is headed. The shame of it is everybody working on this picture pretty much did what they intended to do. The screenplay is a notch above the norm but it just doesn't aspire to much. There are some interesting character detours but that's all ... just interesting. And mostly only slightly so. The director, Gavin O'Connor is dealing with a lot of good actors in this film and for the most part he doesn't really waste them. Unless you consider the entire project a waste and in that case ... yeah, he does. There are moments where Pride and Glory feels like it's really about to come alive; as if it's headed somewhere you weren't expecting. These moments are generally short-lived.
The performances are strong. Ed Norton is as reliable an actor as you get these days. He has some of his best work late in the film in a scene he shares with Jon Voight, but the film doesn't cook enough for it to go anywhere. Colin Farrell's last three roles that I've seen him in (In Bruges, Cassandra's Dream and now this) almost come across like penance for Alexander. He's really good here. There is a scene he appears in that involves an infant, an ironing board and a steaming-hot iron. It's truly chilling. Unfortunately, his character's fate is -- pardon the expression -- a cop-out. For a few years now, Voight has been stuck in roles where he's clearly just been cashing in. But this is the best work he's done in a while and he clearly broke out the acting chops for this gig. Shame.
As the film progresses past it's middle point, it does not get better as these movies are supposed to (this is a genre that boils). Instead, it becomes more disappointing. The promise of the talent involved never really materializes. The ending is a huge letdown, even for this film. What we have here is a bunch of good actors, screenwriters and their director swimming in the shallow end of mediocrity. I'm stuck with compliments like this: I've seen worse films.